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SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good afternoon, everyone.  It’s a great pleasure to welcome Minister Shahid here, the entire team from Maldives.  We are so pleased to be able to meet this afternoon.  Maldives is a critical partner for the United States in the Indo-Pacific.  Together, we stand for and are working to advance a free and open and secure Indo-Pacific.

Of course, the Maldives has been a leader for countries that are pretty vulnerable on climate change.  I look forward to talking about the work that we’re doing there.  But I’m also particularly pleased – and all of us are – that you will be re-establishing your embassy here in the United States, here in Washington.  So, I think it’s a very auspicious occasion in that regard as well.

We are working day-in, day-out but also today to continue to deepen and expand our ties.  One area that we’ll be talking about is doing that in higher education – something that we very much value and I know you do as well, because that really gives us an opportunity to extend our partnerships through the generations.

But it’s very good to have you here today, to be able to work on deepening the partnership we already have.  Welcome (inaudible).

FOREIGN MINISTER SHAHID:  I thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.  It is truly a pleasure to have this opportunity to meet you, once again.  I highly appreciate this meeting, as it serves a vital platform to further strengthen an already robust relations between our two countries.  We share so much common principles.  We are both committed to a peaceful, prosperous, and free Indo-Pacific.  We are united by the common positions we take at international forums, especially on climate change, human rights, and in the promotion of democracy around the world.

The relations that has existed between our two countries are an example to the rest of the world how a large country, a superpower can have a relationship with a large ocean state like the Maldives and have so much in common.

I am delighted that I will once again be officiating the reopening —


FOREIGN MINISTER SHAHID:  — of the Maldives Embassy here in Washington, D.C.  I am happy to (inaudible).  (Laughter.)  I’m just hoping that this time it will remain so.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  As we say, the third time is the charm.  (Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER SHAHID:  (Inaudible.)  Mr. Secretary, it is truly an honor.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Thanks, everyone.

U.S. Department of State

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